The New Year

Newness Ends (Touch and Go)

As they grow up, children go through a developmental stage called compartmentalization. In this stage, kids attempt to put their world in order by drawing everything in boxes, making rules for every game, and supplying names for each toy. Some people -- music critics, for instance -- nev- er outgrow this stage. As a result, we have ridiculous, claustrophobic names for musical genres, like post-rock, techno, and slocore. Occasionally, however, a band comes along that plows its field with such ardor that its work becomes synonymous with its genre. Bedhead was such a band.

For seven years, the Texas group dedicated itself to one singular sound: slow, clean guitars that either stayed quiet or grew progressively louder and messier, accompanied by ominously murmured vocals. If it sounds like a simple format, it is -- and that may explain why the band's slocore camp eventually became crowded with groups like Low, Idaho, rex, et al. Bedhead was different, though: Somehow grander than its peers, it raced precariously and elegantly up to -- but not over -- the precipice of lost control.

Age, it seems, necessitates change. The New Year, the follow-up act of Bedhead singers/guitarists Matt and Bubba Kadane, plows a wholly different plantation, eschewing earlier flirtations with oblivion for a newfound midtempo maturity. (Ironically, the New Year's songs were written before Bedhead's breakup.) The new band's tunes sound like the middle parts of Bedhead numbers, as if the New Year left the slow intros and wild outros behind with the mulch.

While the packaging for Newness Ends retains Bedhead's cold, minimalist look, the songs are downright emotive. The Kadanes sing more like Lou Reed than ever, with lyrics that harken back to Reed's early '80s "I'm just a regular guy, look at these regular feelings" period -- the difference being that the brothers pick over their problems with the dedication of a monkey combing for bugs. On "One Plus One Minus One Equals One," Matt Kadane tries to figure out a failed relationship using mathematical methodology, while on "Half a Life" he mulls over duplicity with striking evenhandedness. "Newness Ends" perfectly captures that moment when a relationship swerves from lust into friendship, and "Great Expectations" ponders the kind of questions that make a shy guy's stomach churn ("As I get older/ Will I get bolder/ Or will disappointment be even worse/ And once I start shrinking/ Will I start thinking/ That expectations never die?").

For narrowly categorized bands, the expectation is stasis: Stay just how you are or lose your fan base. But with Newness Ends, the Kadane brothers toss the past aside, taking their slo- core tag and ramming it halfway to New Hampshire. From the cymbal crash of "The Block That Doesn't Exist" to the fuzz-guitar charge of "Carne Levare," the New Year is first and foremost a rock band. Don't let a critic or a 6-year-old tell you otherwise.

 
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